This season’s Woodson Concert Series takes a look at storytelling, particularly the ways we portray ourselves and grapple with the world around us. Inspiration and external influences are at the heart of the stories expressed through music for the first program of this exploratory series, which is performed by a TFO woodwind quintet on Sunday (Jan. 12) at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg.
Astor Piazzolla’s tangos are a true expression of the music Piazzolla absorbed around him – from New York to Paris to Buenos Aires. William Grant Still’s Miniatures for Woodwind Quintet framed popular folk songs from different traditions in a way that connects them. Finally, Valerie Coleman’s tribute to the great Josephine Baker brings to life her amazing story, from St. Louis to Paris.
This quote from cellist Yo-Yo Ma shows the deep connection between Piazzolla and his tangos, which “have the great strength of true voice.”
“Tango is not just about dancing. It is a music of deep undercurrents. Because of what Argentina went through as a country, tango has become the soul of Argentina. Music is always one way people can speak when they aren’t allowed to express themselves otherwise. And Piazzolla’s tangos have the great strength of true voice…. Piazzolla’s music is endlessly passionate — full of yearning — and at the same time tremendously contemporary. There’s a quote to the effect that Piazzolla is the Ellington of Argentina, and in a way it’s true. He actually took the tango to another level by inhabiting his music. The music grew in him, and he adeptly incorporated the influences of his surroundings—whether from New York, Paris, or Buenos Aires. During the almost forty years he worked on his music, Astor Piazzolla tried many different variations—even tried an electronic ensemble! Because of this experimentation, and also his ingenuity, focus, and hard work, his music has many levels of expression and a tremendous depth. His is a truly successful synthesis of the tango and the contemporary.”
(Argentina is a country whose story is deeply rooted in the struggles of indigenous people, colonialism, war, famine, despotic rulers, as well as cultural appropriation and suppression.)
EXPLORE THE CONCERT AND BEYOND
Below are links to bios and the music that inspired each of the pieces on this concert. Enjoy exploring the music from our first Woodson Concert of the season!
ASTOR PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992): A major Latin American composer of the 20th century who was inspired by both jazz and classical music in creating a new style of tango. Click here for his bio.
WILLIAM GRANT STILL (1895-1978): The American composer and conductor was first African-American to conduct a professional symphony orchestra in the United States. Click here for his bio.
Click below to hear the original folk songs that inspired Still’s Miniatures for Woodwind Quintet:
I Ride an Old Paint (USA)
Traditional Folk Music of Mexico
Jesus is a Rock in a Weary Land
Traditional Folk Music of Peru
A Frog Went A-Courtin’
VALERIE COLEMAN (b. 1970): An American composer and Grammy-nominated flutist who founded Imani Winds, a wind quintet, in 1997. Click here for her bio.
IF YOU GO: The Woodwind Quintet concert is 3 pm Sunday (Jan. 12) at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg. Admission is pay what you can at the door; seating is limited. The Florida Orchestra musicians performing this week are Sandra del Cid-Davies, flute; Jeffrey Stephenson, oboe; Joseph Beverly, clarinet; Maurizio Venturini, bassoon; and Alex Lane, horn.
The Woodson Concert Series is generously sponsored by Bill and Suzanne Garth.
Special thanks to Elizabeth A. Baker for inspiring and informing the program’s enhanced content.